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Clinical psychologist

A whole year has passed!


wow! A whole year has passed me by and it all happened in a flash. So quick that I didnt even get around to posting on the blog!

A lot has happened in 2012 – one of which is the addition of a family member! And what a journey that is! Yes, 2012 saw the birth of our little girl and the start of a whole new adventure. But this is not why I am blogging…

This year needs to start with an apology for the lack of writing last year and a resolution to pay more attention to this site. I would like to ask any readers to feel free post questions and comments that could open discussion and provide interesting ideas for future posts – afterall, this is supposed to be an informative platform that is useful!

So here is wishing us all a fantastic 2013 – may the best moments of 2012 be your worst in 2013 and may you enjoy the adventure you are about to embark on.


Resolute About My Resolution!!!


HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE (albeit a little belated :))

And with the new year comes new beginnings – a chance to turn a new page, turn over a new leaf, be different, start over, achieve more etc. etc. etc. I am astonished this time of year to see how many negative comments there are about new year resolutions  – “they never last longer than 2 weeks anyway and then just make you feel guilty” is a common one and HOW SAD! Yes, I suppose the resolution that says “I am going to gym every day of the week for the rest of the year” is a little over the top, but what about resolutions that aim generally for better health, more fitness, more friends, happier lifestyle, less stress, achievement – oh the list can go on! Why be cynical about these?

So I guess my post here is about resolutions, or better put, goals – and how we can actually stick to them and achieve!

The first step is having the dream. Is it health, fitness, money, an entrepreneurial venture, a more fulfilling relationship – anything? We cant get anywhere without these and the start of a new year brings with it a certain type of freshness and inspiration so use it!

Now comes the important part – once you have your dream / idea you have to break it up into smaller, achievable goals. Yes, make a real plan of exactly how you are going to go about achieving it. This is absolutely vital and I think where most forgotten and discarded resolutions go – they were not clearly defined and there wasnt a quick enough sense of achievement to provide incentive. You know how it is – go on a diet and lose a kilo, suddenly you are way more motivated to continue eating dry provitas than last week. Lose another kilo and you”re happy to eat just salad 🙂 that’s how results / achievements motivate us. So in the same sense, break your dream up into smaller chunks that are then set as achievable goals.

An example: Ok imagine Sue’s dream is to be more fit. Thats great! Now, what does that mean? Will she be competing in triathlons? or does she simplywant to be able to walk up the hill without losing her breath? She decides that “being more fit” means a triathlon and she has 7 months to achieve this. Now she asks herself what she needs to do to get there – join a running club, start cycling and do some swimming at the gym. She might even say that by the end of March she would like to be able to swim 50 lengths without hesitation and cycle 5 kilometres easily. Now she will break it down even further and ask herself how she will go about achieving that – here she might set a very specific training schedule in order to achieve it. In this way she can monitor her success week by week and see progress or areas that need improvement. The more she succeeds or gets closer to her dream, the more motivated she will be.

So, in the same way, you want to take your resolution / goal / dream and make sure that you have set some clearly defined and achievable steps in getting there. Your smaller goals need to be within a time frame to add a little healthy pressure and make them measurable so that you are better able to gauge your successes.

As you achieve each little success – give yourself a well deserved pat on the back – be proud, reward and then move on to the next step knowing you can do it! Thats the recipe right there and its really simple.

It’s a new year, there is absolutely NO reason why you shouldnt be able to start afresh and achieve your successes. I plan on achieving mine 😉 and I know you can achieve yours!

Till next time remember:

Success is the progressive realization of predetermined, worthwhile, personal goals.
Paul J. Meyer

Go On….Get Your Cheer On!!!!!


Hey Everyone – and a Merry Christmas / Happy Holiday Season to you all.

I havent written in a while and thought it was about time to add a post to the blog.

Christmas time is such a festive time for most of us – filled with family, good food, laughter and gifts. Well, at least it is supposed to be. It struck me the other day that there is also a lot of hype around this holiday and almost an expectation to “get your cheer on!” It’s quite a lot of pressure if you ask me.

This time of year is also likely to be quite anxiety provoking – maybe you have family coming for a visit that you havent seen in aaages – the in-laws??? *eek*. Maybe your home is going to be packed to the rafters with people creating mess, noise and just generally invading your space. Yes! You are supposed to be excited about all this, and perhaps for the most part you are, but lets not overlook the fact that some of this is actually quite stressful.

And lets not mention the spending! Wow… gifts for everyone and the costs get higher every year. Not only gifts but Christmas dinners, work events, taking the kids on fun outings (it is holiday time after all) and of course there are SPECIALS everywhere!!!! You just got that 13th cheque, or the end year bonus – perhaps had dreams of paying back debt / credit cards, maybe you have been planning for that nice flat screen or spa visit… but the money wont stretch as far as it is required eh?! Yes, this is also a fairly stressful part of the festive season if you ask me.

So… what can we do to make sure we “get our cheer on” and survive the season???

I’d say first and foremost take stock of what is important to you. prioritize your time and your spending and ensure that the season doesn’t leave you depleted and dissatisfied at the end. Spend quality time with good friends and family and if you need to rake some time out from even them, well – do it… take yourself to the gym (lets not forget that exercise is an EXCELLENT stress reliever) for an hour of “me time”, go for a walk, or go for a massage – you are entitled, this is YOUR holiday too! Spend money on others, but ensure you get a little spoilt yourself – this is your hard-earned cash and it doesn’t need to disappear on other’s only. Take your partner or closest friend for a dinner before the masses arrive – de-stress, catch up and connect. Plan a mini getaway for after everyone has left – this is your money, spend it on you as well !

Perhaps, this season is actually a sad one for you. Perhaps you have lost loved ones that will be missed this season. Perhaps you are wishing to have the hype I talk about above… again, this is your season too.. Do something special or yourself, spoil yourself, and try to surround yourself with friends – say Yes to that invite and have some fun!

So all in all my message this time is really about putting yourself first a little – acknowledge the stress of the season and give yourself  little break. Take time out and enjoy the cheer, spend some hard-earned cash on yourself and make sure you get some down time too.. that way, when January hits, you will not be one of the many that says “I need a holiday from my holiday!”

Merry Merry and a Blessed new year!

“And These Are a Few Of My Favourite Things”


Just the other day I was standing on the patio waiting for a client when the garden service guy from the house across the road opened their garden gate only to unleash a very excited and enthusiastic Basset Hound. Yep – out she ran, ears flapping, totally in her element with her new found freedom. The garden guy tried desperately to get her back inside, but she wouldnt have any of it. It was quite a sight!
So while I was watching the struggle unfold across the road, and literally holding my sides laughing, I realised that Basset Hounds must be my all-time favourite animal!  The pure contradiction between the face and that  enthusiastically wagging tail just make me smile.

It was shortly after this incident, when hubby and I were in the midlands that I came across a little blue wooden tortoise with one of those bobbing heads at a local craft shop. Buying it, I stuck it on my dash board and spent the next hour or so continuously giggling at the smooth “everything-is-gonna-be-alright-mahn” bobbing of the tortoise’s head! Yep, I figured this would be the best “Calmette / Rescue” remedy for a bad day – just jump in the car, put on a good tune and watch that tortoise bob his head!

And thus my list of “top 5 things that make me happy” was born!

Along with the Basset Hound (I am still to acquire one of my very own instead of stealing glimpses of the cutie across the road) and the tortoise (which still bobs at me every day), I also have a ring tone that makes me giggle everytime I hear it (despite the blank stares I get when I, full of pride for my new found ring tone, show it to friends and family – they just dont get it.) To that list I have also added a favourite song and am still in search of my number 5.

The idea has been so infectious that my hubby has painted the patio blue and claimed the space was now in his “top 5 things that make me happy” list! He then acquired a “mario brothers” ring tone and added that to the list too. Let me just add that we are both humming the mario brothers soundtrack for the entire day after his phone rings! All this got me thinking that it would be a marvelous way of staying positive. I mean why not? Why not surround yourself with things that make you happy, things that make you giggle (even if no one else gets the joke)? In fact, the mere task of assembling the “top 5” list has been a fun adventure and I reckon it could do with a re-evaluation every 6 months or so –  well at least this way you would be forced to find new things that bring you joy!

So thats message of the day, friends – start assembling your “top 5 things that make me happy” list and fill your days with a giggle here, and a happy thought there. Its a great way to keep you smiling even when you feel that life is getting in the way! Go on, you deserve it!

“And I guess that’s why they call it the blues..”


Wow, it feels like yesterday that I looked at the calender and we were headed into February and my thought then was “wow, cant believe we are entering the 2nd month of the year already!” Its now 7 months down the line, I wipe my eyes and have to look again to realise there are only two and a half months left of this year! Its incredible how fast time flies by.

On the other hand I am also encountering more and more people who feel they have literally dragged themselves through the year, or are finding it increasingly difficult to get motivated and struggle to feel the end of year excitement the way many of us do. Common complaints are feeling demotivated, feeling sluggish, not in the mood to be around people, sleeping poorly and feeling tired all day as well as the occasional feeling of tearfulness. A general dissatisfaction with the way things are and an inability to find the joy in daily activities that used to be enjoyable.

Well my friends – that’s why they call it the blues, and it sounds a whole lot like Major Depression to me. In chatting with many of these people there seems to be a resistance to admitting they may be facing depression, or a resistance to getting the necessary treatment. So I figured I’d spend some time on the issue here and hopefully clear up some misunderstandings.

Let’s first look at the symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling tearful or “down” more often than not
  • Disturbances in sleep – particularly waking up in the early hours and unable to fall asleep again
  • Disturbances in appetite – either over-eating, or a lack of appetite (sometimes weight gain and weight loss)
  • Decrease in energy – feeling sluggish and fatigued
  • Social withdrawal and a preference to be alone
  • Inability to find joy in previously pleasurable activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Thoughts of suicide (more present in severe depression)
  • Indecisiveness
  • Loss of concentration and inability to sustain attention
  • Low libido

Now, if you’ve been feeling most of these symptoms for a month or more, it is more than probable that you are actually struggling with a major depressive episode (that’s the fancy psychiatric name for depression). The really important thing to remember here is that depression is as much a physical illness as pneumonia, or diabetes is and deserves the right treatment too.

What actually happens when you are depressed (“depressed” in the sense of experiencing a major depressive episode – not “depressed” in the general term used when feeling sad)?

anti-depressant Well, to put it briefly and simply – our brains send messages from transmitting neurons to receiving neurons via chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Amongst the 30 odd neurotransmitters found in the brain, serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine have been associated with emotional regulation, reactions to stress, and the physical drives of sleep, appetite, and sexuality. As a result, anti-depressants function to regulate the amount of a specific neurotransmitters in the brain – some anti-depressants such as SSRI (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) work with serotonin only, while others affect the dopamine levels.

While there does appear to be a very strong relationship between neurotransmitter levels and clinical depression, and that anti-depressants are highly effective for the majority of people, we can still not be 100% certain of the actual relationship between neurotransmitters and depression.

As a result, psychotherapy and a variety of other management techniques are also effective in the treatment of depressive episodes. – Here are a few really important aspects in managing and treating your depression:

  1. EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE: Despite that lethargic, de-motivated, and energy-less feeling you have, the irony of it is that dragging your bum to the gym, or going for a walk actually increases your energy levels, allows for the release of some endorphins and generally gets you feeling better. Besides the health benefits of exercise – its a great way to feel good about yourself when you have actually accomplished something
  2. SLEEP! again, despite the lethargic feeling, try not to stay in bed past your waking up time, try not to have afternoon naps. Get 6-8 hours of sleep per night – no more and no less. Sleep regulation with an exercise programme will do wonders for your mood.
  3. DIET: Its easy to get into the comfort eating mode, wanting “feel good foods” like ice cream, cakes and chocolate. Believe me, engaging in healthy foods is going to help your blood-sugar levels, regulate your energy and generally assist in feeling better about yourself. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin B’s (the full range are excellent in managing depression)
  4. SELF CARE: you deserve to take care of yourself and do nice things for yourself. If you had flu, you would take time out and rest. So, if you feel like you need some time out – take it, but don’t get caught in a loop of self-pity and wallowing – rather take the time to get active in gym, eat healthy and tackle that old hobby you had put aside ages ago.
  5. FIND SUPPORT: talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling and let them take you out occasionally. Don’t shy away from social interaction – isolation and loneliness only feeds the depression
  6. And if all else fails – visit a psychologist! 🙂

treating depression


Oh yes, and with summer fast approaching (well here in South Africa) don’t be afraid of getting a little sun – it really does energise and gets your lust for life going!


“Happiness and sadness run parallel to each other.  When one takes a rest, the other one tends to take up the slack.”  ~Hazelmarie Elliott (“Mattie”)


Spring’s Inspiration


Hey all.. Wow it has been a long time since I added to the blog. I guess Winter with it’s late sunrises and early darkness got the better of me and fueled my laziness. But lo and behold, we have woken up for 5 days in a row with beautiful sun, warm days and the sun is setting a little later every day.

With this, it seems, there is a new buzz in the air. A new kind of energy. The last long haul of the year 2011.

Suddenly we have kicked in with our exercise regimes, we are trying to eat healthier, meet dead lines, take on new projects and generally finish off things before the end of the year hits us…and ladies and gentlemen – it is upon us. I even saw an advert for Christmas the other day!!! With all this happening I am also asking myself how to make the best of this new found inspiration to lose the winter weight, or aim for the last bit of success the year has to offer. You know how it is – we start a project with gusto and enthusiasm – determined to make it a success, only to lose that touch of inspiration somewhere not too far along the way. So how do we maintain it? How do we ride this new “spring energy” right into the middle of summer???

A good question indeed. And here are my thoughts on the issue. WRITE IT ALL DOWN!

Yep, this is the new motivation system folks. If you write it down you have already spent more energy invested in your goal than if you only spend fleeting seconds pondering it. Writing it down – making a list of the things you want to achieve, the goals you have set – makes them tangible and real in the world. Especially if you then put them up somewhere where you can see them every day. The next step is to think quite carefully about the steps needed in attaining the goal. So for example – if the goal is losing 5 kgs, then how do you plan to do this??? Maybe it is 3 x a week gym and joining weighless? Maybe its 5 x a week walking with a friend and cutting out the glass of wine every night 🙂 Either way, planning and writing down the steps to attaining your goals also makes the process run smoothly. Again, you want to have these “mini goals” (lets call them) up where you can see them so that you have a daily reminder about what you have set out to do. The bigger goals are now broken down into smaller, achievable steps – now there really is no excuse for not following through.

But what of the motivation you ask? Well, I am still working on this one. Its beginning to seem that the loss of inspiration is part of the human condition and my best counterattack to this is to find a “buddy” – find someone who will take on the task with you – if it’s quitting smoking, losing weight, finishing a project, taking on a new one – two energies are somehow always better than one. Finding support (and a little cheer leading team) can only be beneficial in the long run!

So here’s to enjoying the energy that Spring brings with it and wishing you all the best for the downhill journey toward 2012..

“Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.”
George Edward Woodberry

Take Off Your Boxing Gloves – Advice for couples part II


We have all had it in our relationships – you start discussing point A, your partner hears you say B and before you know it you are arguing about Z (having worked your way right through the alphabet!). A small issue about wet towels becomes a huge argument about in-laws and everything in between so that you no longer remember what the point of all this was and you’re left feeling much angrier than when you started! This miscommunication when discussing issues in relationships is universal. Everyone has experienced it and no one knows why it happens! But ladies, lets admit it – half the time we also expect our men to just know what we mean, to intuit the fact that right now we need them to hug us, or for them to have psychically understood that the dishes were supposed to have been done already and that is why we are irritated. 😉

Why is it, in our closest relationships, we just don’t come out and ask for what we need? I mean, lets face it, most arguments are born from an unmet need. Usually a need to be loved, or a need for closeness. All relationships have these issues, and the longer you’re in that relationship, the more you come to realise that there are some issues that, no matter how many times they are revisited, they just never really get solved. Some couples begin to feel frustrated – begin to believe that their relationship is faulty, that their partner just doesn’t want to change, or hear them.

Well, the news here folks is that all relationships have problems and, whats more, all relationships have perpetual problems. After all, some wise person did say that “marriage is choosing a set of problems that you are willing to work through for the rest of your life”. The “faultiness” comes in when those problems become stuck and you are no longer able to discuss them.

So today we are going to look at some techniques that keep arguments on course (instead of wafting through a number of issues that are not relevant to the point). Techniques that keep arguments fair and respectful, and lastly, some techniques that will help both partners feel like the issue has been resolved (if only for a short while).

The first thing to keep in mind is your approach. If you are the one carrying around an issue that needs discussing, keep your approach gentle. Bulldozing in there with arms flailing, raised voice and a whole sack load of accusations is only going to make your partner cower in fear, or throw up the armour – either way you would have lost him/her. Your approach needs to be gentle.

  • Instead of an accusation, rather make the statement about you – Crouching issues in criticisms is simply not O.K. So instead of “you’re a horrible husband – you always ignore me” try saying “I feel really alone when you seem to ignore me”.
  • Keep it concise – no one is going to want to listen to a whole barrage of issues and evidence for their faults being slung at them. Its really hard to hear a complaint that goes on and on…Deal with one issue at a time and try not to hoard all your partner’s ‘wrong doings’ as proof of what a ‘terrible person’ they are.
  • If you can, try start with something positive. so instead of starting with “you always watch TV and never talk to me anymore” try “It was so nice when you sat chatting with me last week, I wish we could do more of that”. This isn’t always an easy point to remember – especially when you’re feeling angry. But try it folks – it works wonders! Sometimes it even sidesteps an argument altogether!
  • Talk clearly about what you need. Instead of “this kitchen is a mess!” (and then stomping around a little), try saying “I’d like some help cleaning the kitchen”. Your partner is not psychic and cannot always intuit your deepest needs – using subtle hints is bound to leave you disappointed.
  • Be polite – you don’t need to be nasty when complaining or requesting something. Using words like “please” and “I’d appreciate it..” makes your requests/complaints much easier to swallow.

Once you’ve made your approach, give your partner time to respond. The response should always include a little empathy. Try to find at least one thing that you can agree with. Accepting some of what your partner is saying allows you to remain connected during the issue. Remember you dont have to agree with his/her point in total, just a small part of what is being said. How about an example?:

Rob says (with a gentle approach because he read this blog beforehand :)) “Sue, I loved it when you came to watch my rugby match last week. It is a little disappointing that you refuse to come along ever again” Now Sue says “Mmm, it was nice being with you (see how she accepts this), but its really boring for me to just sit there on my own – you never come to my functions”. Now its Rob’s turn: “Maybe it is boring (see how he accepts this) but its only for an hour and then we are all together afterwards having fun, your functions go on for hours!”

I’m sure you get the point, The discussion may very well turn into an argument about a perpetual issue – namely that Sue is always supporting Rob, but isn’t feeling very supported herself. Maintaining some acceptance of your partner’s viewpoint will assist in both partner’s feeling heard and understood. Should things get a little heated, however, the next point is super important.

Watch out for becoming emotionally overwhelmed. Basically if you start to feel tense, holding your breath, clenching fists, raising your voice, stopping eye contact, or feeling really angry – you are getting overwhelmed. Research shows that when your pulse reaches 100bpm you are actually no longer capable of being rational (Gottman,1999). This is as good a time as any to call “time out” and cool off. Take a 30 minute breather, go for a walk and calm down. Make sure, though, that you are thinking about what your partner is trying to say, rather than self righteously reiterating your point to yourself. When you get back – start from the top with a gentle approach and see if you cant work things out this time.

Lastly – compromise. Make sure you have accepted some of what your partner is telling you and that you communicate what you intend to do differently next time. They should do the same. Make sure that neither of you are compromising too much – a compromise that amounts to a sacrifice will often end in resentment. So for example, if Rob were to give up his rugby for Sue – that would be a sacrifice. However, if he were to play rugby twice a month instead of every week so he could attend some of her functions – that would be a compromise.

The goal of any discussion / argument is to reach a compromise where both feel heard, understood and are willing to try meet the other one’s needs.

So there we have it friends – 4 steps to conflict resolution:

  1. Gentle approach
  2. Acceptance / empathy
  3. Avoid becoming emotionally overwhelmed and take time out
  4. Compromise

Till the next time:

“The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation — or a relationship.” – Deborah Tannen